Olbiński's Album of Posters Revealed in New York City
#photography & visual arts
small, Olbiński's Album of Posters Revealed in New York City, Rafał Olbiński, Casual Tempation, oil on canvas, 78 x 60 cm, photo: Marshand Gallery, olbinski wystawa 4_5932078.jpg
‘Posters should not be literal but metaphorical’, said Rafał Olbiński, painter, illustrator and poster designer, during a meeting at the Polish Consulate in NYC. The artist was promoting his upcoming book – Passion for Posters – scheduled for publication in spring 2016.
The 240-page album includes about 300 posters by Olbiński, taken from different periods of his artistic work. The book opens with the artist’s earliest work from the 1970s, when he was still looking for his own style. It features a selection of music, opera, theatre, film, jazz, and circus posters as well as posters devoted to urgent social and political topics, such as war and immigration.
Richard Wilde, Dean of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, wrote the introduction for the album, in which he describes the artist as a master of surprise. Olbiński’s seductive, mysterious, provocative and magical works move millions of people worldwide. Regardless of their subject matter, they have the ability to shock and amaze audiences. Wilde added:
Vagueness, ambiguity, paraphrases of motifs, overtones at once menacing and tempting, sexual references, nuances, taste for feminine form, classical compositions and metamorphosis of one object into another, as well as references to surrealism – all this makes Olbiński`s work demand the active participation of the audience.
Passion for Posters, a hardcover album published by BOSZ in two language editions – Polish and English – will be presented in May 2016 during the BookExpo America in Chicago. It is supposed to become obligatory reading at the School of Visual Arts, where Olbiński taught for 15 years.
During the meeting at the Consulate, the artist said:
In a sense, I am the third stage of the Polish School of Posters, or at least I was one at the beginning. Everybody who was working in industrial graphic design (including me after graduating in architecture) wanted to do posters. Poster is the noble part of a designer’s activity.
Olbiński compared ideal posters to great paintings, saying that they both reveal the perception and style of the individual artist, and that they share a similar ability to impact the audience. He added:
I create paintings, which include elements of posters. Like a good painting, a good poster is easily remembered. It is not only an exclamation. but also a visual question mark. It grabs our attention and then makes us think and engage emotionally.
According to the artist, his posters have a double life – without the verbal message they are paintings. More ambivalent and nuanced, they only become posters after the addition of captions and typography – and that’s when they sell a specific product or idea.
Olbński describes his own style as a surreal-poetic metaphor, realistic painting with its own typography, which has a double meaning. The artist looks for metaphors and analogies which can enrich sensitivity, our understanding of the world, history and mythology – a rather difficult task, he admits. In a way, he perceives his art to be a dialogue with the titans of bygone eras.
During the Wednesday meeting at the Polish Consulate in New York Olbiński recalled his artistic beginnings in the United States. He also spoke of his short story collection Tales of Love and Other Curious Predicaments as well as Virtue of Ambiguity, a retrospective of his paintings with essays by renowned critics Robert C. Morgan and Izabela Gabrielson. The event also included a slide presentation and short story readings in both Polish and English.
Editor’s note: The best place to learn more about Polish poster art is the Poster Museum at Wilanów. A division of the National Museum of Warsaw – founded in 1996, with the launch of the International Poster Biennale – it preserves and presents works which have been collected since before the Second World War. The museum offers about 10 exhibitions per year in Wilanów, a beautiful district in the south of the Polish capital, as well as numerous resources available online – and is the oldest poster museum in the world! Check out their website here.
Passion for Posters
polish poster school
Compiled by PW, translated by OK, 12 Feb 2016, edited by LD, Jun 2020